JONESBORO — Head coach Steven Hampton wasted no time issuing the Nettleton Raiders a new challenge after they polished off another home victory last week.
The Raiders have walked off their home field with a victory each time they have played there this fall, but they have yet to drive home with a win after a road game. Hampton reminded his players of that fact after last Friday’s 48-13 victory over Paragould.
“I think we’ve built a little confidence and I told our guys after our win last Friday that we’ve proven that we can win at home. We’re 3-0 at home,” Hampton said. “Now the challenge is to be able to prove we can go on the road and win. We have yet to do that this year.”
The Raiders (3-3, 2-1 5A-East) have another opportunity tonight as they visit resurgent Greene County Tech (4-2, 2-1 conference). Kickoff in Paragould is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Nettleton’s 0-3 road record includes losses at Pocahontas, Mountain Home and Batesville. Hampton tried shaking up the Raiders’ road routine before the conference opener at Batesville, a game they lost 38-6.
“We’ve had some tough road trips, going to Mountain Home and going to Batesville. Those aren’t easy trips,” Hampton said. “Being at home has been much easier, but this isn’t a long trip by any means. We’ll try to keep everything as normal as we can and make the short trip over to Greene County.”
While Nettleton has won seven consecutive meetings with GCT, the Eagles are off to their best start in several years behind running back David Williams.
GCT already has its highest win total since 2011, when the Eagles won four games. Two more victories would guarantee GCT’s first winning season since 2009.
The Eagles are 3-0 at home. Their losses came on the road against Vilonia and Wynne, teams with a combined 10-1 record.
“They don’t beat themselves. If you’re going to beat them, you’re going to have to go and do it. They’re not going to help you or give you any assistance,” Hampton said. “They’re solid on defense. They just play good, sound football. They don’t really give you anything, you have to go earn it, and offensively the Williams kid is a threat. You have to know where he’s at, at all times, because they’ll play him in the backfield as well as at receiver.”
Williams has 702 yards and eight touchdowns rushing. He ran for 211 yards last week against Brookland and also gained 100-plus yards against Westside, Vilonia and Forrest City.
“I think he’s averaging 20-plus touches a game whether that’s rushing or receiving. We know we’re going to have our hands full there. If he gets loose, he has great speed and can run away from you,” Hampton said. “Their receivers, they have three or four receivers who are pretty equal as far as stats go, so they spread it around really well. But it all starts with being able to stop the running back for sure.”
Nettleton’s offense is coming off its most productive passing performance. Cameron Scarlett was 11-of-15 passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns against Paragould.
Hampton said the Raiders need more production from Scarlett and their receivers in the last four games.
“We know we’re going to need that down the stretch,” Hampton said. “As balanced as we can be, that will be help us, because these last four games we’re going to play teams that if you’re one-dimensional, they can shut you down. You’re going to have to be able to run and pass to win these last four ballgames.”
Scarlett has completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 715 yards and six touchdowns on the season. He is also the Raiders’ season rushing leader with 597 yards and 10 touchdowns.
O’Rion Pugh and Koby Bradley have combined for 747 yards at running back, Pugh gaining 474 and Bradley 273. Together they average 5.7 yards per carry.